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In "An Ugly Truth," Two Reporters Expose Facebook's Quest For Power

Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel by Beowulf Sheehan
Beowulf Sheehan/Beowulf Sheehan
Beowulf Sheehan
Co-authors and award-winning New York Times reporters Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel. (Photo by Beowulf Sheehan)

Nearly 70% of Americans have a Facebook account, and the giant social media platform's unrelenting mission is to keep all of us glued to those accounts for as long as possible, every day. Executing that mission has made Facebook insanely profitable. The company is also unquestionably problematic and unapologetically purposeful in its manipulation and marketing of our personal data, most of which we offer up quite freely.

Last month the Federal Trade Commission updated its antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant, arguing that it should be broken up into smaller companies, separating, for example, Facebook from Instagram and What’s App.

Tom's guests today are two award-winning reporters for the New York Times,  Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang (pron."Kong"). In their NYTimes-best-selling book, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, the authors examine Facebook's operations in the period between the 2016 and the 2020 elections.

Published July 13, 2021 by Harper Collins Publishers

Forty-four percent of Americans say they get their information about candidates from the behemoth social network. And a lot of the time, that information is spurious, generated by foreign states like Russia, and sometimes, the candidates themselves. The deleterious effect on basic democratic institutions is immeasurable, and as Kang and Frenkel document, Facebook’s efforts to curb it are ineffective. And one of the central reasons their efforts fall so short so often is that curbing that kind of abuse runs contrary to Facebook’s business model.

An Ugly Truth is chilling and persuasive. Kang and Frenkel's book reveals how Facebook’s reach into the global community is unmatched, and how its unchecked power presents a conundrum to those who would break it up or attempt to regulate it.

Cecilia Kang joins us on Zoom. Sheera Frenkel joins us on our digital line…

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Malarie is Midday's Supervisory Producer.
Rob is Midday's senior producer.